By Heather Mustain
I can trace the beginnings of a personal theology of justice to a specific moment. I was 12 years old, sitting on the bus waiting to depart for the hour-long route home. I glanced out the window to catch two groups of young boys beating the living daylights out of one another for no other reason then that they belonged to two different social groups.
My stomach turned and I instantly felt nauseous, my young mind filled with confusion as I could not comprehend the level of hate that could motivate this behavior. I later found out this annual event was between what our small-town youth termed the “farmers” and the “wiggers.”
I grew up in rural, Upstate New York, sheltered to most of the world’s happenings, except the ideologies of privilege that keep racism, sexism and hate fully alive. Unfortunately, these ideologies weave together the fabric of our democracy.
In college I became fascinated with the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders. I minored in African-American studies, soaking up class after class and book after book on the history of a people I knew nothing about. The stories of resilience and struggle shaped my personal theology of justice, teaching me how I moved through the world with unchecked privileges, shaping the ways I interacted with those different than myself. Admittedly, I always told myself I would have been an ally to those marching for freedom if I lived back then.
This Saturday, January 21, in cities all over the country, marches will be held in support of women’s rights. On Saturday morning, my husband, 18-month-old daughter and I will join others in Dallas, not as a matter of protest to our newly-elected president, but as a statement of solidarity.
This is why I choose to march:
Because this fall it came out that our President-elect “joked” about it being okay to grab a woman without her consent, only to perpetuate a culture of violence against women and girls — a tremendous gravity for all humankind.
Because I’m a daughter to one of the strongest women I know. At my age, my mother was raising three children on her own, without a college education, on government assistance. She never told me I could not do something because I was a girl. She taught me the value of hard work and aspiration. At the age of 40 she graduated from college and continues to work in the healthcare industry.Because now I am a mother to one of the most beautiful little girls I know. We want her to grow up in a world where she has full agency to use her voice and finds the respect she deserves when she says no. Our prayer for her is that she will know our love for her is deeper than who she decides to become or who she decides to love. God has given her to us as a gift; a gift we treasure in the depths of our being.
Because it’s about time that I make the same amount of money that a man who has the same qualifications does.
Because there are 200 girls in Nigeria still being held captive by Boko Haram and the world has seemed to forgotten.
Because nearly 45 million individuals serve as slaves used to pick our food, make our clothes and mine our phone batteries.
Because my faith demands it of me. From an early age God instilled in me a theology of justice and its time I put feet to these convictions. “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:18, NRSV)
Because my spirit needs to walk with others who recognize the importance and validate the need to work for freedom — not just for women and girls, but for everyone. I don’t live back then, but I do live now and the march for freedom continues.
KERA released a short interaction between a fourth-grader, Aiden Sykes, and his father, two years ago. This short four-minute clip has become one of my favorite interactions between a father and a son, and in some ways has become my own parent manifesto.
In the clip, Aiden asks his dad a series of questions, one of which was why he took him to so many protests. His dad, Albert, responds “I think I take you for a bunch of reasons. One is that I want you to see what it looks like when people come together, but also so that you understand that it’s not just about people that are familiar to you. It’s about everybody.” It’s about everybody, now ain’t that the truth?
So what feet will you put to your convictions? The time is now, not back then, so march on friends, for yourself, your daughter, your everyone.
Rev. Heather Mustain serves as Minister of Missions at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
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